Map the Meal Gap shows food insecurity in the United States and the Texas Panhandle


Feeding America released its Map the Meal Gap study for the 12e year. According to this study, there are food insecurities in all 3,143 counties and national equivalents as well as 436 congressional districts in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, according to research by Feeding America.

Map the Meal Gap is the only study that estimates food insecurity and the cost of food in the United States at the local level, according to a press release. The study released this year provides data from 2020 that includes food insecurity rates for multiple racial groups showing that the variations can be quite different, depending on population and location.

Feeding America is the largest hunger relief organization in the United States. This is done through a network of 200 food banks, including the High Plains Food Bank, and 60,000 food pantries and meal programs. Through this network, meals are provided to 40 million people each year. Feeding America supports programs that prevent food waste and improve the food security of the people they serve, while providing education about hunger issues and concerns and advocating for legislation that protects people from hunger , according to Feeding America.

“Every community in this country experiences food insecurity, but we don’t all experience it the same way. This data provides the most complete picture available, and we know that behind this data are people and communities who will be impacted by the changes we need to make to ensure no one goes hungry,” said Tom Summerfelt, PhD, director of research for Feeding America in a press release. “Only by understanding the realities of food insecurity within our communities can we truly address it. Map the Meal Gap provides incredible information and data and is accessible to everyone so that people facing hunger, policy makers and community leaders can come together and shape policies that improve access to food for all.

Studies have shown that 1 in 7 people (13.5%) in the Texas Panhandle and 1 in 6 children (18%) face food insecurity. Of these, 1 in 3 black neighbors (29%), 1 in 6 Hispanic neighbors and 1 in 13 white (non-Hispanic) neighbors (8%) face food insecurity.

Moore County is the most food secure, with 1 in 10 neighbors and 1 in 7 children facing food insecurity. On the other hand, Cottle County has the highest rate of food insecurity with 1 in 5 people and 1 in 4 children facing food insecurity.

“Overall, rural counties are more affected than metropolitan counties. In our service area, the High Plains Food Bank covers 29 counties, 27 of which are rural. Our overall rate of food insecurity is 1 in 7 people, including 1 in 6 children. This is a bit higher than the national average, so overall our neighbors are more likely to face food insecurities than others at the national level. What we’ve seen from research done by Feeding America is that while rural Americans are more likely to face food insecurity, there are also race and ethnicity disparities. Food insecurity is more likely to impact our black and Hispanic neighbors,” said Tina Brohlin, director of development for the High Plains Food Bank.

The estimated annual food budget shortfall is approximately $30,540,000 in our region alone, while 33.7% of those facing food insecurity exceed the income limit for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits (SNAP).

The High Plains Food Bank offers several programs such as Kids Cafe, Direct Mobile Distribution, a Senior Adult Food Box Program (CSFP), Mobile Harvest product distribution, and nutrition education through The Garden at High Plains Food Bank. They can also direct individuals to programs and organizations that can help establish food security, improve self-sufficiency, and improve health. Along with this, HPFB can help people apply for SNAP, CHIP, and Medicaid.

“The High Plains Food Bank alone would not have the resources to undertake a study like this. Being a member of the National Feeding America Network allows us to have this information to help us understand the community we serve that is at risk of facing hunger, because the more knowledge we have, the better we can make good decisions with our limited resources. It also allows us to influence policies and practices that remove the challenges and barriers that arise between our neighbours. It allows us to inspire others to help our food insecure neighbors take action to make progress in improving local food insecurity,” Brohlin said.

The High Plains Food Bank, along with their partner agencies, are asking for volunteers to help keep their wheels turning.

“Right now, the best thing people can do is give their time, because we’re having a hard time finding enough volunteers. If school groups or church groups can come out and volunteer at the local food bank or food pantries, not only would that help us, but it would help with this food insecurity,” Brohlin said.

To volunteer at the High Plains Food Bank, visit https://www.hpfb.org/get-involved/ways-to-give/volunteer/

Feeding America has an interactive map to view food insecurity rates in the United States and Texas online at https://map.feedingamerica.org/county/2020/overall/texas

According to data from Feeding America, for example, some of the Potter County figures include a food insecurity rate of 16.1%, with a food insecure population of 19,010. The average cost of meals is $2.96 and data indicates that the additional money needed to meet food needs would be over $9 million. Additionally, 76% live below the SNAP poverty line of 165%. In Randall County, the food insecurity rate is 11.9%, with a food insecure population of 16,120. The average meal cost is $3.39, with nearly $8.8 million in additional funds needed to meet food needs. And, 49% are below the SNAP poverty line of 165%.

For complete research collected by Feeding America, go to https://www.feedingamerica.org/research.

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